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The Exercise Diabetes Solution

If you're ready to fight to reverse your type 2 diabetes, a pair of sneakers can be one of your best investments

Studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as some medications when it comes to beating type 2 diabetes. "Even a little activity can help hugely," says Tim Church, MD, PhD, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. During exercise, glucose gets driven out of the bloodstream and into the muscles for fuel. The more muscle you have, the more excess blood sugar it can store, explains Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD, professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University. Plus there's the weight lossthat comes with a fitter lifestyle: Dropping pounds improves your insulin response, further lowering glucose levels.

While most types of exercise can help, researchers now have a sense of what has the most impact. Here, our proven, three-pronged approach to conquering diabetes.

THE PLAN Practice Interval Training

How Much? At least once a week for 30 minutes

Any type of aerobic activity helps cells sop up sugar, but intervals (alternating high-intensity bursts with low/moderate-intensity recovery) may net the biggest payoff in the least time. One study found that as few as 10 minutes of intense interval training per workout is enough to lower glucose levels by 13% for up to 24 hours in people with type 2 diabetes. In addition, experts say, you should do up to 90 more minutes of moderate activity a week.

Make It Work For You: Intervals don't have to entail all-out sprints to do your blood sugar good. Just challenge yourself for a minute or two. It can be as simple as powering up your walking speed for a block. "Picking up the pace even briefly can help with blood sugar control," says Dr. Colberg-Ochs.

SPEED YOUR RESULTS The beauty of interval training is that you can do it with virtually any type of aerobic exercise, whether outside (walking or running), indoors (on a bike, stair-climber, treadmill, or elliptical), or in the water (swimming or aqua aerobics). Just use your intensity level as a guide. During low-intensity activity, talking should be relatively easy; at a medium pace, you'll be slightly breathless while trying to converse; at the high end, saying more than a few words should be a challenge. TIME: 5 min ACTIVITY: Warm-Up INTENSITY: Low TIME: 10 min ACTIVITY: Intervals x 5 INTENSITY: 60 sec High, 60 sec Medium/Low TIME: 10 min ACTIVITY: Steady Pace INTENSITY: Medium TIME: 5 min ACTIVITY: Cool-Down INTENSTIY: Low

THE PLAN Hit The Weights

How Much? Twice a week for 20 minutes

Strength training gives you significantly more control over blood sugar levels than you get with just cardio. One study found that exercisers who did a combo of aerobics and resistance training had a nearly 1% lower hemoglobin A1C value (a measure of blood sugar control), compared with nonexercisers--better than the aerobic-only group or the strength-only subjects. (Put into perspective, a 1% drop in A1C means the risk of cardiovascular disease drops by up to 20% and the risk of eye or kidney disease by 40%.) "Doing both strength training and aerobic exercise seems to create a synergy, affecting your muscle tissue in different ways," says Dr. Church.

Make It Work For You: Even simple body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, and push-ups can be enough to stimulate muscle growth. Aim to do at least 1 or 2 sets of each move, working all your large muscle groups.

THE PLAN Keep Moving How Much? Every 30 minutes all day, every day

If you have a desk job or long commute or simply like to veg in front of the flat-screen, you're spending at least two-thirds of your day completely sedentary. All that sitting around is counteractive to good health—even if you dutifully put in time on the treadmill a few days a week. "Our bodies are built to move," says Dr. Church. "The less active you are, the more damage you'll do, including increasing your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, and other markers of chronic disease." One recent study found that even when physical activity levels were taken into account, women who reported sitting the most had the poorest metabolic profiles.

Make It Work For You: Use every opportunity to move more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; deliver a message to a coworker in person rather than by e-mail; pace when you're on the phone. "Even little changes like these can add up to an extra 50 calories or more burned a day," says Dr. Colberg-Ochs. Over a year, that's a 5-pound weight loss.

Filed by Coach John


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